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Paddling with Lights

In just a few weeks, we will all do that one last thing that means Summer is truly over - well, most of us will -- we will turn the clocks back an hour and resume "Standard Time." Non-paddlers and folks who don't spend as much time outdoors always rejoice about that extra hour they just got back, how they get to sleep more, blah,blah.blah. Yeah well, we all know that's just bogus. If you are training for that last race of the season, you already have noticed that it is pitch black early in the morning now and that darkness falls so much earlier at the other end of the day.

Time to break out the lights.


Paddling in the dark is totally doable with the right kit.  There are two things to consider: seeing and being seen.  You need something to help you see what's ahead and you need to make your board or boat visible to others who might be out there with you.  Here are some suggestions.

To See

The easiest thing to do is just get a headlamp.  However, the shadow created in front of you each time you switch sides paddling is annoying at best. As a rule, I always carry one, because they are handy and they will do in a pinch if one of my other lights fails.  I like Black Diamond's Storm.

At $49.95 it is pricey but here's what you get:

  • A very high IPX7 waterproof rating.
  • Your choice of red, green or blue LED output beams which are not as harsh as white when you switch sides paddling.
  • Touch-sensitive housing which makes changing light output easy.
  • A lot of lumens - 350 - so it's very bright.

You can also set this light to red and attach it to your PFD to increase your visibility to other boaters.

While carrying a headlamp is a good idea, mounting a light to your deck is going to be the best thing for seeing what's ahead.

For a long time, I McGyvver'd a Nite Rider Lumina 950 bike light to a GoPro Mount and pointed it forward.  950 lumens is like three times more powerful than that Black Diamond Headlamp.  The Lumina is USB rechargeable. And it has a waterproof rating so it will stand up to splashes.  I've never had a problem with it.  When I paddle at night, I paddle more conservatively anyway so chances of the light getting dunked are slim.  It helps to mount it up off the board if possible - like on a gooseneck attachment. You'll throw the beam out farther and it won't get as wet.

Don't ask me how I managed to get it attached to the GoPro mount.  I just don't know.  Let's just say I am my father's mechanically inclined daughter.

Fortunately, there is now a new-ish market for external light for GoPro POV cameras. A search on Amazon turns up lots of waterproof lights that come ready to go on that GoPro mount that's probably already on your board.  I have been trying the Suptig XShot Dimmable Waterproof (45m) LED Video Light available from Amazon at just $21.99. It is waterproof to 30 meters, is rechargeable and has a dimer function that includes a strobe mode.  At 300 Lumens, it's as bright at the Black Diamond headlamp, but at that price, you can buy a couple if you need more candlepower. What's cool about the Suptig is that it has a foot on top of the light so you can mount that second light right on top.  You can easily mount these on one of those gooseneck attachments as well. And unlike powerful dive lights of old that would get so hot you could not operate them above water, these LED lights can do double duty as a bike light, camping light or emergency kit light.

To Be Seen

When I paddle at night, there's likely to be a lot of fishermen out on the water.  I need not only to see where I am going but I need to make sure other boaters can see me.  The last thing they are expecting, especially in the cold weather, is a standup paddler in the dark.

Enter the MPowerd Luci or Luminaid lights!

These things are awesome and fun. And inexpensive, at under $25.   Inflatable, solar charging and water proof, they are easy to attach to your board. And they float! They come in different colors and the more sophisticated options will offer a strobe setting.  The Luminaid can be recharged with a USB as well as via the solar panel. Attach these to the bungees behind your, on your nose or on your leash string and you will be much more visible to other boaters. They collapse for easy storage and make great camp lights or emergency light. And kids LOVE them.  Trust me. I know.

You can also attach something like Life Gear's rechargeable glow sticks  to your board, canoe or PFD for increased visibility as well. They are small, lightweight and are great to keep in your glove box.

So, no need to rue the day we turn the clocks back and start the long, dark, cold tea time of our souls, winter.  Just get some light and keep paddling!


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